Although 2012 proved unsettling and difficult for clean energy, the global market drivers for clean technology remained largely intact, according to the “Clean Energy Trends 2013” report issued by Clean-Tech Research and advisory firm Clean Edge Inc.
The report found that lower prices for many clean-tech goods and services, combined with a renewed focus on scalable projects, resulted in record annual solar, wind and biofuels deployment. Against this continued expansion combined global revenue for solar photovoltaics (PV), wind power and biofuels expanded just 1 percent, from $246.1 billion in 2011 to $248.7 billion in 2012. This marginal growth was one of the many consequences of rapidly declining solar PV prices.
“2012 was a year of extreme uncertainty for clean energy markets as venture investors pulled back and high-profile bankruptcies became a partisan wedge in the presidential election, all while climate disruptions brought clean tech back into the limelight,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director.
The Clean Energy Trends 2013 report’s key findings include:
- Global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel for biofuels reached $95 billion in 2012, up from $83 billion the previous year. From 2011 to 2012, global biofuels production expanded from 27.9 billion gallons to 31.4 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.
- Wind power, new installation capital costs, expanded to $73.7 billion in 2012, up from $71.5 billion the previous year. Global wind capacity additions totaled 44.7 GW in 2012, a record year led by more than 13 GW added in China and the U.S., and an additional 12.4 GW of new capacity in Europe.
- Solar PV, including modules, system components and installation, decreased from a record $91.6 billion in 2011 to $79.7 billion in 2012. While total solar market revenues fell 19 percent — the first PV market contraction in Clean Energy Trends’ 12-year history — global installations expanded to a new record of 30.9 GW. Only five years ago PV was being installed at roughly $7 per peak watt. Today, projects can be completed at closer to $2.50 per peak watt globally.
Venture capital investments in U.S.-based clean technology companies totaled $5 billion in 2012, falling 26 percent from $6.6 billion in 2011.
Increased financing from deep-pocketed traditional energy and technology players reflects the move away from early-stage capital toward on-the-ground deployment. In early 2013, Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings expanded its solar portfolio with a $2 billion acquisition of the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in Southern California. Google’s recent $200 million equity investment in a Texas wind farm pushed the tech giant’s ownership in solar and wind projects to a combined 2 GW.